Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cheap Fun?

Cheap and Lame....that about sums up my existence at the moment.

For Labor Day my husband signed-up to run a 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) in Oakbrook, IL - a suburb of Chicago. I've known about it for a while, but was hoping he wouldn't really do it. Why? Because I manage our family's budget and even a little trip always costs a few hundred dollars. The registration fee isn't expensive, but its all the "other" stuff like gas, lodging (because the race starts early in the morning), food, etc. He had had some muscle tenderness for the weeks leading up to the race and was complaining about his hamstring and calf muscles on his left leg. I was hoping he would injure himself and stay home. That's awful! But I had just told my husband days earlier my plans for our budget and how I was hoping to save some serious $$$ by not spending on things that weren't absolutely necessary.

Thursday he ran 10 miles. When I suggested that he could just run 13 miles here at home on Saturday, he said he wouldn't do it! Really? He just did 10, is doing 13 miles 2 hours away really necessary? And its not like he hasn't run before. He has been running for years, full marathons and half marathons. His response was, yes, he needed to go. I didn't think it was absolutely necessary, but I wasn't going to make the mistake of saying that out loud. Things have been tense around here lately.

Then the question of whether or not we would accompany him on this trip. Truthfully, I could have stayed home and been just as content. But the penny-pincher I am said this could be a mini-vacation for us. He was already going to spend the money on gas, and lodging, maybe we should all go and make a day out of it. What was I thinking?

First there is the getting ready to go. That is a process unto itself. After church we ran home and I made dinner. Pasta - it's what every runner eats before running - carb loading! Then packed up the kids stuff. Meanwhile, my husband has packed up his things, is sitting at the computer and asks what he can do. He wasn't really serious about doing any of it. When I asked him to help the kids he said he was "supervising" the kids while they were getting their stuff ready. A 6 year-old, 4 year-old, and a 3 year-old need more than supervising. Then I suggest that he might clean the kitchen before we go, while I get the kids stuff packed up and finished a load of laundry. He replied that he would just wait until he got home the next day. (He was irritated). OK. Eventually, he realized we weren't ready and did it. And we still weren't ready to go when he finished. He doesn't spend enough time with his kids to know that nothing happens quickly around here, and supervising is just another word for not caring if it gets done or not. I thought we were doing pretty good. Home at 4:20, dinner, packed up, cleaned up and out the door by 6:00. That is a miracle in my book.

Then there is the issue of traveling with 2 adults, 3 children and an infant. There just isn't enough room for all the people and the stuff. We can bring one or the other, but not both. The baby can't ride in an umbrella stroller because she can't sit up on her own yet. The regular stroller won't fit in the van because it seriously takes up the entire back/trunk area. And then there is the sheer volume of stuff that is required when traveling with children. What was supposed to be a small overnight trip, looked like we were staying for a few days.

And the glorious car ride. This was our first car ride greater than 20 minutes with our 10 week old infant.  I was hopeful that she would just sleep during the entire ride. No, there was crying. Same thing on the way back. I think she cried for 30 minutes straight during each day of our journey in the car.

The kids love staying in hotels, and this hotel happened to be on the MacDonald's Corporate Headquarters campus. They thought they were going to go to MacDonald's. We pull up to the hotel, notice it is only valet. Turn around and look for the free parking. I suggest why don't we just valet it. That would be the best $5 we would spend all day. Instead he goes back up to the hotel and asks the valet guy where the free parking is, gets his answer, and then remembers oh yeah, lets just valet it. I am sorry, but walking from the parking lot with 4 small kids and our stuff doesn't sound like fun. Don't choose this moment to be concerned about our budget.

If you can't already tell, I was irritated before we ever loaded up the car to go. Not a good way to start a trip, but I knew what I was going to be in for and did it anyway.

Our kids usually go to bed early. By the time we were checked in the hotel and the kids were down for bed it was after 9:00 pm. We were "waiting" for the extra blankets we had requested because the three kids were going to sleep on the floor. My husband would sleep in one bed by himself, and I would sleep with the baby in the other bed. We both remembered our past experiences sleeping with children in hotel rooms when he has some place to be early in the morning. 

And then it was morning. DrH had to pick up his registration packet and left at 6:00 am. We didn't hear him leave. When he came back at 6:35 am to drop off his stuff he thought turning on the lights would be a great idea. It wasn't. Our son woke up. And why did he turn the lights on? I'll never know! He went into the restroom and I got up and turned them off. Did he not realize that while he is off running and having a great time, my job at the hotel would be to keep these kids asleep as long as possible so the chance of us having a good day would be greater. One day I would love to leave him in a hotel room with four kids and turn the lights on and then leave for a few hours. Good luck!

The kids did great. Although my son was awake, he managed to stay quiet until 8:00 when his two sisters woke up and then I had them all get into one bed with the iPad to watch movies while I worked on keeping the baby asleep as long as possible. Thank heavens for the iPad! The baby woke up at 9:00, yeah! Then I started getting the hotel room put back together, the kids dressed and fed, and everyone ready to go. 

DrH gets back from running his race, takes a shower, and then it's time for the baby to eat and take a nap. DrH takes the kids out for a walk around the campus and the baby and I hang out in the hotel room alone. During which time she blows out of her diaper and deposits yellow baby poo on my pants and shirt. Thank heavens I didn't bring the white ones! And now you see why we have to pack so much. Everyone needs two changes of clothes at least, for moments just like this. When they get back we have both changed our clothes and are ready to go.

It's lunch time and I suggest we use that $20 off coupon he got with his racing bag to a Greek Restaurant, but he has his heart set on PF Changs. So on our way we stop by McDonald's to get the kids hamburgers, wait for another 20 minutes while they eat. Kids don't do much quickly. Then go eat our $65 lunch. The kids didn't eat, but they did want something yummy to drink!

Next stop IKEA. Do we need anything? No! But they do have a kids play place and the kids should have some fun, right? So they spend an hour at the play place and we walk though IKEA. I notice how nice the stuff looks all set up, but on our way out see the warehouse and an item that has obviously had a cart run into it a few time and it is cheap. We just can't get away from it! We buy chocolate and ice cream cones for a treat and then it's off again.

Why must we visit Bass Pro Shops? My husband isn't really the great-outdoors type. Neither am I. But someone told us they had a lake in the store and we are going to check it out. We tell the kids we're going to see some fish in a aquarium. We take pictures with a life sized bear and sit on the ATV's. And they had a fudge shop, so the kids got some fudge. I mean, they should have some fun right?

Back in the car by 5:30 for our 2 hour ride home, during which the baby cried for another 30 minutes non-stop. Total amount I have to squeeze out our budget for this day of free/cheap fun: $250.00. Had he just ran 13 miles at home, we'd only be out the $60 registration fee. I hope the above experience was worth it.  Happy Labor Day!


  1. I am tired just reading that.
    I have three kids - and going ANYWHERE that includes a hotel becomes such a huge mission. I can't imagine doing it with an infant in tow.
    And it's funny how men have these ideas to do stupid crap like turning a light on?? Who even gets an idea like that???
    Glad you guys made it through the weekend!! You survived!

  2. That sounds so exhausting. I don't know how you do it and act as the glue that holds days like this together!


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